By ZVI MAGEN 23/04/2010 16:31
Photo by: AP
In its effort to challenge the West, Russia must fight Muslim fundamentalists while maintaining positive ties with the nations that support them.
Recent events in Russia – Islamic terrorist attacks and the blunt message to Hamas demanding an end to the rocket fire – are indicative of a Russian dilemma reflected in its ambivalent policy on international terrorism.
The latest terrorist attack, apparently carried out by Muslim organizations in the northern Caucasus with suicide bombers targeting establishment institutions and transportation, exacted a high human toll, spread public panic and caused a great deal of consternation for the authorities. To date, the Russian establishment has been unsuccessful in containing terror, and for now is activating the rhetorical channel by transmitting harsh messages to terrorist organizations.
However, in the midst of these events, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in his dialogue with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, demanded that Hamas cease firing rockets at Israel. Despite the near-concurrence of these events, it is as yet impossible to point to a causal link. What does stand out is the difference in the Russian attitude toward terrorism at home, compared to their attitude to radical Islamic elements abroad.
Terrorism against Russia on the part of Muslim rebels in the northern Caucasus that started as a struggle for national independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, turned over the years and two bloody wars (1994-96, 1999-2007) into a fundamentalist Muslim struggle for the establishment of a Shari’a-based Islamic state in the region. The struggle was begun by Chechen rebels, and was apparently supported economically, morally and militarily – including with active participation in the fighting – by radical Islamic elements in the Middle East.
The struggle included extensive guerrilla warfare and terrorist attacks, first in Chechnya and later in other Muslim provinces in the northern Caucasus, and finally in the heart of Russia itself. Ironically, it was only recently that the Russians announced significant achievements in the war against the rebels, including the elimination of guerrilla units, targeted assassinations of key activists and institution of law and order in the province led by the pro-Russian President Ramzan Kadyrov. Now criticism is mounting in Russia protesting the defrauding of the public by the establishment on this point.